Five “Must-Knows” on the Dangers of Synthetic Fragrance


by guest blogger Ava Anderson, natural beauty expert and safe cosmetics advocate

Real strawberries don’t really smell like that…

1.      WHAT is “fragrance?” More than 95 percent of the chemicals in synthetic fragrances are derived from petrochemicals. These chemicals include: benzene derivatives, aldehydes, phthalates, and a slew of other known toxins that are capable of causing cancer, birth defects, nervous-system disorders and allergies—some of which are cited on the EPA’s hazardous waste list.

2.      WHERE is it hiding? In the U.S., manufacturers can legally hide hundreds of synthetic chemicals in the one word—”fragrance”—without revealing what those ingredients are. It’s referred to as a “trade secret” in the industry. But really, it’s simply a loophole big enough to drive a fuel truck though. This excuse to not label fragrance ingredients was initiated in an era when the major fragrance houses lobbied to protect their secret formulas made from flowers and oils. But those days are long gone. What the government is protecting now are manufacturers who have a license to poison the American public with more than 3,000 chemicals that are being absorbed, inhaled, and ingested daily.

3.      WHY should I avoid it? Environmental Working Group (EWG) researchers found more than 75 percent of products listing the ingredient “fragrance” contained phthalates (THAL-ates) which have been shown to disrupt hormone activity, reduce sperm counts, and cause reproductive malformation, and have been linked to liver and breast cancer, diabetes, and obesity.  Additionally, studies by Dr. Philip J. Landrigan of the Mount Sinai Children’s Environmental Health Center, link fetal exposure with autism, ADHD, and neurological disorders.

4.      HOW do I avoid fragrance? Many of us work hard to make good food choices—such as eating organic and avoiding hormones and GMOs—and we read nutrition labels. But how many of us read the labels of our bottles, sprays, and jars? A majority of personal care products for men, women, and children, along with home-cleaning products, contain “fragrance.” The ingredients in “fragrance” are absorbed into the bloodstream directly though the skin. We advise people to avoid ALL products with the ingredient “fragrance” on the label—including perfumes and colognes, baby lotions and wipes, air fresheners and candles, dryer sheets and detergents, and so on. Even if the front screams “fragrance free,” products can still contain fragrance ingredients as a masking agent to cover unpleasant chemical smells. Read the labels!

The bottom line: Congress has banned some phthalates in toys, but as the recent study above suggests, others have been substituted in their place. Many countries have banned phthalates (EU, Canada, South Korea, Japan, even China). But the U.S. government demands such a high level of proof of harm that many agree it is simply impossible to reach—and our government is slow to respond, banning only a few chemicals in its history.

“Fragrance” is at the top of my “no-no” list. If a manufacturer isn’t willing to list ALL of a product’s ingredients on its label, that’s a deal breaker for me. I hope it is for you, too.

Ava_AndersonAt the age of 15, Ava Anderson launched her own line of personal care and home-cleaning products, Ava Anderson Non-Toxic. Now 20 , Ava is educating hundreds of thousands of American families annually on the issue of toxic chemicals in personal care products through her line, which now includes baby, skin, face, hair, body, scents, bugs, candles, home, sun, and pet products. A sophomore at Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts, Ava actively helps run her multimillion-dollar empire with 17 full-time employees. Her goal is to help force a paradigm shift on the issue of toxic chemicals in products. 


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19 Responses to Five “Must-Knows” on the Dangers of Synthetic Fragrance

  1. Sandi February 6, 2014 at 7:25 am #

    Great informative article. Everyone should take the time to understand why fragrance is such a dangerous ingredient.

  2. Andrea C February 6, 2014 at 7:27 am #

    Ava, I love how you are educating people across America on the dangers of what’s in everyday products around the country. What I love even more is that you have gone the extra mile in providing an alternative. It’s easy to research and write about something to inform people, but to actually take action and create an answer is a whole new level. Congratulations and THANK YOU for what you do.

  3. Catherine B February 6, 2014 at 7:30 am #

    Everyone needs to read this! Such great information and once you know it, it’s impossible to “unknow”. Thank you Ava for your clear and concise explanation and for all the work you do to force the paradigm shift in this country!!

  4. Jodi R February 6, 2014 at 7:56 am #

    I always look forward to reading articles by Ava. She’s nothing short of HERO STATUS!!!! Thanks for EVERYTHING Ava and thank you Maria’s Farm Country Kitchen for having Ava be a guest blogger! I learn so much from these articles!!!!

  5. Beth Newberry February 6, 2014 at 8:50 am #

    That little ingredient is in everything and most people assume it is meaningless. Thanks for bringing attention to this. People are getting savvy about reading food labels but often times don’t understand how to read personal care product labels. Love that you are working to change this Maria’s Farm Kitchen and Ava. Thank you!

  6. Diane P February 6, 2014 at 9:02 am #

    It’s funny that for years I was getting migraines and no one would figure out why they just said that it is stress and would give me meds that would make me sleepy. Well after detoxing my body of all toxic products I can proudly say that I have not had a migraine in almost 4 years! I now know that it is the “fragrance” and other chemicals in the products I or my family was using. One of them is the perfume my mother uses. Thanks Ava for keeping us informed! Wish I knew all this 30 years ago.

  7. Christy February 6, 2014 at 9:26 am #

    Right ON! As always Ava. Thank you for leading the charge to reduce the body burden of toxic chemicals. Because of your efforts so many are learning and able to make more informed decisions about everyday products they use. AND some corporations are finally starting to “get it”. Great article!

  8. Dana S February 6, 2014 at 10:04 am #

    I hate the “F” word. The worst is buying an ins enter product to find “fragrance” in the ingredient list! It’s a marketing scam that more people are becoming aware of thanks to Ava!!!

  9. Kim Phillips February 6, 2014 at 10:05 am #

    Great article!! I was just telling my friends why to avoid fragrance! I am posting this on my Facebook page! Thanks Maria & Ava!!

  10. Kristen February 6, 2014 at 10:13 am #

    This is a great summary that explains the dangers so well. My migraines have completely stopped since I switched to Ava products!

  11. Jody Chase February 6, 2014 at 12:04 pm #

    Do you suffer from panic attacks and/or migraines? Did you realize that synthetic chemicals could be behind those painful episodes? “Fragrance” is a dangerous, cheap and toxic excuse for an “ingredient”, and does NOT need to be used. Cheers to Ava for highlighting this issue – if you remember ONE thing about ingredients to avoid, it’s “fragrance”!

  12. Jamie Friel February 6, 2014 at 1:10 pm #

    “Even if the front screams ”fragrance free,” products can still contain fragrance ingredients…Read the labels!” —Isn’t that unbelievable! For years I thought I was using asthma safe products for myself & my family. It’s great to be FREE of the ‘F’ word, migraines & asthma. Thank you Ava, and Maria for bringing this to light again for others.

  13. Alice Green February 6, 2014 at 1:27 pm #

    Allergies have ruled my existence for years, now I’ve gotten GMO’s out of my life (eat organic) and several years ago got all the stuff labeled ‘fragrance’ out of my life. Also, don’t be fooled by the word “Parfum” that is just another word for “Masking Fragrance”. They want us to think we are being protected from the dangers of fragrance by ‘masking’ it. Parfum is just another dangerous chemical. Now my main task is to try to avoid all people who are wearing perfume! Ugh! Not an easy task in this world where everyone seems to think they need to cover up their own clean smell! If I get anywhere near someone wearing any kind of ‘fragrance’ I start coughing and can’t stop until I get away from them. And then they wonder why I’m out among people with ‘such a terrible cold’. ha. Thank you Ave & Maria.

  14. Jackie DeGayner February 6, 2014 at 1:45 pm #

    People with Chemical Sensitivity will react immediately to these “Synthetic Fragrance” and it continues to damage the immune system. I am constantly opening and closing windows because of Fragrances coming in from dryers.
    We have to avoid travel, events and so much more because of “Synthetic Fragrance”. Thanks to companies like Ava Anderson Non Toxic I can at least keep these away in my home.

  15. Amy Jo Sirianni February 6, 2014 at 4:26 pm #

    Ava, Thank you for providing help, in an ever increasing area of need for pure products! <3

  16. Dori February 7, 2014 at 4:24 am #

    Went to a presentation of your cisnetucs line and got sick from the fragrances. Dont see any difference. Except people thought your stuff would be ‘safe’ for me. It isnt.

  17. Nancy Simpson February 7, 2014 at 4:27 am #

    I have had chemical sensitivities for years. Most people just don’t understand them. It’s okay for everyone to hate cigarette smoke because it’s not the in thing to do; but, they are offended if you are allergic to their perfume or fragrance. Just saying … these are so different but the same result. Same goes for car or diesel fumes and many others too numerous to mention. They are all chemical sensitivities. Wish they would understand. Wish the smells could somehow be banned !!!

  18. Deborah February 13, 2014 at 6:48 am #

    I am really sorry but I absolutely love perfume and I do not think I could give it up! I have given up so many other things that are known to be bad for ones health, but perfume I don’t think so. There is always going to be something that could kill you. I have given up toxic cleaners, processed food, non organic food etc
    What about plug in air fresheners and ones that I see in peoples cars? Love your site btw.

  19. Tom July 2, 2015 at 9:45 pm #

    Welcome to the new arena of Marketing BS you silly sheep. While there are some common sense items ideas here, there is also a lot of total junk. References to the EWG “researchers” are bogus. EWG is a group of Environmental Nazi Moms who read junk stories on the internet and publish them as truth. There are no scientists or doctors behind EWG and there are certainly no qualified peer reviewed studies. Most of the claims are just internet hearsay.

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